LOS ANGELES (LALATE) – A Washington Post false John Wooden death report Thursday continues to spark controversy. John Wooden was reported incorrectly dead by the Washington Post Thursday. But unlike any other fake celebrity death reports of 2010, the Post’s story on Wooden – who is gravely ill but still much alive – was widely picked up as fact when in truth it was fiction.
As Friday begins, one subject being discussed across different news sites today is the extent to which this falsehood spread, so fast, and so incorrectly Thursday across news sites.
WTHR.com Indianapolis would for example run Thursday an article entitled “Washington Post: John Wooden dead at 99″. Now Friday that story has been replaced by a story entitled “Our Apologies”. The article doesn’t explain what WTHR is apologizing about. In fact it doesn’t even mention Wooden, nor state “we made an error, Wooden is alive”. The text to the WTHR article now reads simply the article is gone. “The page you requested is currently unavailable. Pages on this site are constantly being revised, updated, and occasionally removed. You may have followed an outdated link or have outdated pages in your browser cache.” Nowhere on the new article for WTHR (an NBC affiliate) does it mention the error and that Wooden is alive.
Fanhouse, operated by AOL News, finds even greater fault than with websites that aren’t fessing up and admitting the error and informing their readers that Wooden is alive, not dead. Fanhouse writes today “The difference now, of course, is the breathtaking speed and global reach of the Internet, which can turn almost any rumor or half-truth into a global trending topic that’s accepted as fact … The confusion regarding Wooden’s health brings to mind other high-profile gaffes in journalism history, such as the Chicago Tribune’s “Dewey Beats Truman” headline that incorrectly named Thomas Dewey the winner of the 1948 presidential election, or the premature reports of Joe DiMaggio’s death in 1999.”